The aromas of perfume and barbeque sauce mingled in the breezy McCovey Cove air as graduates, their friends and their family filtered into sunny AT&T Park for the 2016 SF State Commencement on Friday.
After thanking those in attendance and praising the accomplishments, diversity, and sheer size of this year’s graduating class, SF State President Leslie E. Wong introduced Claudia Corona, one of the 12 hood recipients honored by the University each year. Corona recounted the childhood encouragement that led to an interest in science and shared some advice with the packed stadium.
“I want you all to stay curious. About everything– now and always,” Corona said. “You and I are here today because we were driven by our desire to be better, to know more, and to move forward.”
Following the conferral of honorary degrees, Robert Nava, vice president of university advancement, presented the graduating class’ gift to the University. A traditional offering at every graduation, this year’s class gift was a donation to the HOPE fund, a reserve set aside for students who experience crisis during their time at SF State.
“I’ve absolutely felt what you’ve all felt right now,” said Jonas Rivera, this year’s Commencement speaker, SF State alumni and Bay Area native. “I know there are a million questions rolling around in your head as you walk out of here today, into the real world… Will my work pay off? Will I be able to build a successful career?”
Rivera acknowledged that while these concerns could feel overwhelming, it was important to stay organized and prioritize, revealing that he had missed his own Commencement in 1995. He had just started a new internship at Pixar, joining the young animation studio the same year as the launch of Toy Story, the world’s first feature-length computer-animated film.
“The trick is to know that you will get overwhelmed from time to time,” Rivera said. “And when that happens you have to try to force yourself to tackle the biggest things first.”
Air horns, cheers, and whistles punctuated triumphant classical and marching band standards as graduates flanked home plate to accept their diplomas. With a handshake and the passing of a leather-bound diploma, students ran, danced, and hugged their way off the field and on to tackle bigger things.